his quilt of leaves, his face smooth like wax-paper,
no piercing rain, no drenched gales or beating heat
upon him. No movement, she said. No light.
As he woke up Andrew began to talk
as a way of knowing himself again
talking and talking about his journey
about the wild animals he saw
and the birds of time he said their voices
wakened back to him a certain knowledge
what he should become and how to return
a way he could not really touch with words
the stare of the fox vanished beside him
the serpent’s aim the ﬂare of the swallow
always passing just beyond his reach
but he kept on speaking anyway trying
to understand something of their call
even in his soundest sleep it was one word
then another word until their shadows
the gold glowing coins of their eyes
had lit up the burned out paths around him
throwing their light back across the trail
to see that he was still following
he said he could always see them
those first days and nights I remember
I would lie down next to him and watch
the bare animal shapes of his mouth
as they came to pass broken and guttural
sometimes calling over the great mountains
sometimes stopping in the dark to wait for him
he said he could always hear them just
breathing beneath the sound of his breathing
Love, where are we now?….
Love, where are we now? He gazes round
the ward, his small bed-space, working it out.
Bermuda? he asks, smiling at me fondly.
No, try again, I say. Cuba? The nurse
comes to start his IV line, and when she goes,
he goes, somewhere in the South Pacific?
which sounds all right to me; and anywhere else
he wants I smile along beside him, thinking
how good, how pleasant it is to sit together,
Lethe-drunk like spirits in their second bodies,
come far from the world of vanishing paths –
to know sunlight from the open window
playing on his hands, the tender city breeze,
and all the while adoring the early birdsong
he hears steadily cheeping from the machines.
He thought tree was wife,
returning to the ﬁeld
with her no longer there.
And for weeks now ﬁeld
was not the same as home
when he tried to call out,
so deaf and dumb
that nothing seemed
to answer him or come back.
It was not the tree
he missed, but the sound
for tree, and the fox,
illuminated, as it slipped past.
It was that kind of silence,
the way the earth is vague
before dawn, the first sounds
not yet breaking through.
When does pond become sky?
he thought, leaning over it,
brain where everything
crawls into detail,
bare and particular
and known completely.
Such a private thing, really,
the world easing out
of nothingness. Remember?
Try it out loud this time,
the pond turning bluish first
then grey. Re-member like that.
It’s never as lost as you think.
12The Cailleach to the Hero
17 The Watchman
20 A Nativity
22 The Kitchen Maid
25 Leaving Early
26 The Cailleach to the Widow
28 The Lark Ascending
30 His Vision
32 The Cailleach to the Widow
33 Love, where are we now?…
36 Morning Poem
37 When Words
38 The Garden
42 Labhraidh Loingseach
43 Mes Aynak
47 David Copperﬁeld
48 Meteor Shower
55 The Cailleach to the Widow
56 Elegy for the Arctic
61 The Cailleach to the Hero
'O’Sullivan shifts away from the kind of “topographical” poetry of place that has become common in Irish writing, choosing instead to locate the place’s meaning in “all of us listening”. O’Sullivan repeatedly presents us with objects or places, which then act not as statements of arrival or recovery but as points of departure. Things we have seen before, often in other people’s poems, come alive again in her hands… The Mining Road is a strong and varied book of poems… slow and concentrated pieces that register with great clarity the mystery of stories and images that exercise power over us, images and stories on which readers will dwell. At a time when historians, novelists and journalists are again revising our national narratives, these thoughtful, ambitious poems bring the past to life, but they also ask if any imagination of the past, no matter how rich and inevitable it feels, can ever be quite enough.' – John McAuliffe, The Irish Times.
'Subtle, slow-burning and sensuous poems that reward with successive readings, The Mining Road is a step in the right direction O’Sullivan and, indeed, for Irish poetry.' – Philip Cummins, The Irish Post.
'These new poems are linguistically abundant. They are full of bold similes and metaphors. Both sensuous and religious, her art is at its most impressive in some remarkable love poems. Love poetry so celebratory and erotic is rare in these cool, cynical times. I admire Leanne O’Sullivan’s technical enterprise and unembarrassed imagination.' – Michael Longley, on Leanne O'Sullivan's Cailleach: The Hag of Beara, and why she was awarded the 2009 Ireland Chair of Poetry bursary
'Leanne O’Sullivan’s first collection, Waiting for My Clothes, was published when she was just 21 and was justifiably acclaimed for the extraordinary power of its language and the maturity of vision. It was also an intensely confessional work; it is therefore not surprising that O’Sullivan should eschew further revelations in Cailleach: The Hag of Beara, her second collection, and plough, instead, the furrows of Irish mythology in her exploration of the eternal feminine... O’Sullivan’s vision continues to be deeply romantic in its trust that nature is a panacea for human suffering; these poems catch one’s breath with their exquisite rendering of the Irish landscape... O’Sullivan’s imagery is always precise, yet utterly dazzling in its originality... she is reclaiming her landscape, as all poets must, and she does so with the steadiness and gravity of a writer who has already found her way home.' — Nessa O'Mahony, The Irish Times
'What is remarkable about Leanne O’Sullivan is not that she is so young…but that she dares to write about exactly what it is to be young. A teenage Virgil, she guides us down some of the more hellish corridors of adolescence with a voice that is strong and true.' — Billy Collins on Waiting for My Clothes
BLOODAXE BOOKS LTD Registered Office: Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS, UK Registered Number 1656254 England VAT No 414 4062 89